The Old Gods Return (Dungeon Crawl Classics 2013 Holiday Module)
Publisher: Goodman Games
Page Count: 22
Release Date: 12/24/2013
Get it Here: DriveThruRPG.com
Tabletop companies really like to release items as close to Christmas as possible. Goodman Games is no exception. This 2013 Holiday Module, entitled The Old Gods Return is full of homages and nods to Christmas. The main antagonist has a reindeer’s head. The tontuu resemble Santa’s elves. There are some seriously screwed up evergreen trees and the joulbok is reminiscent of the Krampus in design if not personality. This is a cute little idea for an adventure, and it’s well done enough that you don’t have to play it around the holidays to get the full effect.
The title of the piece is a bit misleading. The Old Gods do not in fact “return.” There is only one god, a fraction of its former self and near the end of its existence due to a lack of worship in this piece. That said, it IS the principal antagonist of the adventure, and even weakened, a god is a pretty powerful enemy for Level 1 characters to be taking on. Even with a party of six characters, expect some, if not all, to fall as you strive to complete this. Even if you beat the god, there is still a very large chance of a Total Party Kill after the fact (no spoilers as to why), so GMs might want to run this as a one-shot rather than risk beloved characters.
The plot of the adventure is pretty straight forward. Villages around the area are seeing their children struck with a strange illness for which there seems to be no recovery – magical or otherwise. The children fall comatose and appear to be suffering from symptoms akin to frostbite. Thankfully it has not affected the village of the PCs – until the adventure is underway. Attacked by strange gnome-like creatures with a perchance for murder, the PCs and their home village repel these invaders, only to discover at least one child has been struck by the malady. The PCs are chosen by the High Priest of Lopitar (god of fire) to smite the menace plaguing the land. In a sense, the conflict becomes more than PCs Vs. antagonists, but that of fire Vs. ice and old gods Vs. the new régime. Characters participating in the conflict will receive a special bless from Lopitar that allows them a wide range of fire based abilities. These powers are not permanent and will almost certainly exhaust themselves during the adventure, but they will be a lot of fun to mess around with while the players have them.
From there, the players will have to deal with a flying iceberg, three levels of dungeons, figuring out the mystery of the evergreen grove and do battle with an ancient god itself. It’s a pretty daunting adventure, and as mentioned previous, it’s not a question of IF a PC will die, but how many. Hey, if you’re reading this, you’re more than used to the DCC death toll by now, and this shouldn’t surprise you in the least, right?
There isn’t a lot more to the plot here. After the players leave there village, The Old Gods Return is fundamentally a straight forward hack and slash dungeon crawl experience. The emphasis is on roll-playing over role-playing, but again, you kind of expect that going into a DCC adventure. The adventure is quite short, able to be played in a single session. Although the dungeon is three levels deep, there are only three real combat encounters to be had, four if you count the one that sets up the adventure, and a fifth optional one that most players won’t run into unless they are poking their heads into everything.
As always, the art in the first party Dungeon Crawl Classics pieces are fantastic. Doug Kovacs does an amazing job, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the map for this adventure was a two page spread. DCC has the best maps in the industry, so you’re getting twice as much of the thing they do best. That’s a holiday present in and of itself! The other drawings are also a lot of fun, as they really help to showcase how much of this is an homage to various Christmas characters and themes. Without the visuals, a good portion of the piece may be lost on gamers, to the point where they might not realize this has an undercurrent of a holiday theme going for it.
Overall, I really enjoyed The Old Gods Return. Although I’m not a person who celebrates any of the assorted December holidays, this adventure really blends the season with Dungeon Crawl Classics tropes, and the end result is a very memorable adventure you and your friends will no doubt talk about for some time after. Is it the best DCC adventure I’ve ever played? No it’s not. The Old Gods Return is a lot of fun, though, makes for a great addition to any DCC fan’s library and is well worth playing through. This is a great way for Dungeon Crawl Classics to end 2013, and if you have a DCC playing friend, this would make a great late Christmas present for them – plus you’ll be able to share in the experience as well!